The Jackson Post 43 Giants had one close call across their three-game stretch over the weekend. Even so, the squad learned something about its strengths.
In a two-game home series against the East Idaho Rockies on Friday, Jackson cruised to a 10-4 win in the first game and held an 8-2 advantage in the seventh inning in the second.
But, as manager Jason Huggins admitted, the last out of the game is always hardest to get.
East Idaho began chipping away at Jackson’s lead with two outs in the frame and drew within 8-7 before Huggins called on Nate Fairbanks to close the game.
“We’ve made a little shift with him as a back-end closer,” the manager said. “He’ll still start games, but he likes that role right now where he comes in and gives us an inning as our shut-down guy.”
Fairbanks quickly got the out, letting the Giants indulge in a collective sigh of relief before traveling to Idaho Falls to take on Hillcrest on Saturday.
Jackson seemingly made light work of that road trip, taking the nine-inning game 7-0 to move to 13-6 on the season. Over the past two weeks of American Legion baseball, Jackson has gone 7-1 after hovering around .500 through the first few weeks of the season.
And though the Giants have been able to flex the muscle of their deep pitching staff since the beginning of the season, it’s been the bats that have woken up. In Friday’s 10-4 win over East Idaho, Quentin Bruno connected on his first career home run, Matt Ellingson notched a three-run homer of his own, and Jackson put together a run of four back-to-back doubles in the middle innings to keep the pressure on.
Jackson will be hoping all those pieces remain together when it hosts its third home tournament of the year beginning today.
Three of the best Legion ball clubs Jackson will see this year will be in town through Friday, when Mountain View Toros (Boise, Idaho), the Idaho Falls Bandits and Cheyenne Post 6 take to Giants Field.
Mountain View Toros is coming off a trip to the American Legion World Series last year. The Idaho Falls Bandits are composed of the best 18 players in the city, and Cheyenne Post 6 is the perennial Wyoming power that Jackson could very well meet for the state championship come end of summer.
“By far they’re the best teams we’ve had on our field,” Huggins said. “To have all four teams matching up here, it will be a fun three days for sure.”
The Giants took the program’s first win over Cheyenne at the Gillette Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, so it’s likely that squad will be making the road trip with redemption in mind.
For Huggins there’s no win-loss record over the stretch that will let him know it was a successful outing. Instead the victory was just getting those teams in Jackson to compete.
“We just need to come out and compete and fight, which I know we will,” he said. “Just by us playing them is a win for us. We obviously want to win on the scoreboard, but however we start on Wednesday, by Friday we’ll be better.”
Meanwhile, the Jackson Prep U15 team is on a roll of its own. The team is off to a 6-0 start to the season and first place in the conference.